A tight points battle for a track championship, an invader chasing a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championship and a $10,000 prize combined for a perfect storm and one of the best fields imaginable in Late Model Stock Car racing Saturday night at Dominion Raceway (VA).
At the end of the night, it was four-time national champion Phillip Morris stealing the spotlight and going home with the $10,000 paycheck.
Defending NWAAS champion Matt Bowling set fast time in qualifying, but after a redraw, it was Tyler Hughes leading the field to the green flag with current NWAAS national points leader Lee Pulliam starting alongside.
Dominion track championship contender Tyler Hughes dominated the first 80 laps, running away with a lead that at times stretched to five car lengths.
Pulliam struggled early on, slipping back to seventh in just 77 laps, while Morris excelled in the early stages of the race, working back up from his fifth-place starting slot to take the lead from Hughes following a lap 81 caution.
From there, Morris was propelled to victory despite multiple restarts and a handful of challenges, first from Bowling, and then later from Sergio Pena and Brenden Queen.
Pulliam retired from the race on lap 102 and Bowling joined him in the pit area on lap 133.
Hughes finished two spots ahead of Doug Barnes to extend his championship lead. According to track officials, Hughes will hold a 12-point lead over Barnes with only three races left for the Late Model Stock Car division at Dominion.
The win for Morris extends his domination across Virginia this season. The veteran racer has won races at South Boston, Motor Mile and both times he has competed at Dominion this season.
“This is an awesome race track,” Morris remarked after celebrating. “The two different corners, it makes it difficult to get a setup but makes for some great racing.”
“This is great for me. You have to wonder when you get to this level in your career what is next, this is next for me; every race is next for me. As long as we can be competitive, we will keep going. This builds momentum for us as we go to Martinsville and go for a championship next year.”
Finishing second was Sergio Pena, who was elated to finish behind Morris.
“It was a crazy race, we came here to practice with a 100-lap old set of tires, so to come home second is great. It just goes to show all the hard work we put in,” Pena said. “We started 16th, towards the back, that was kinda tough. We just were patient and a couple lucky cautions fell our way and before I knew it I was up there behind Philip Morris and Matt Bowling. To come home second to Philip is a win for me.”
Third-place finisher Tyler Hughes looked to be destined for a win early on, before falling back near the end of the race.
“I had a lot of fun. I got to lead a lot of laps, and to race door-to-door with Philip, at my home track is pretty neat. He is one of the best guys in the sport, one of the guys I look up to and to run door-to-door with him is great,” Hughes exclaimed. “We got turned around, but had a good run coming back forward and just got stuck in a hole there for a little bit but were able to find our way.”
Fourth-place finisher Brenden Queen was optimistic on his chances at grabbing the $10,000 payday until the final restart.
“That last restart just killed us when Sergio (Pena) missed the shift, up until that point, we were coming on the long run, we really didn't need that caution but I debated on taking the top and I should have because Sergio missed the shift, and ultimately that cost us our shot.”
Race fans can find on-demand Trackside Now coverage of Thursday’s race by clicking here.
-By Reese Nobles, Speed51.com Mid-Atlantic Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
Unofficial LMSC Results
Dominion Raceway (VA)- September 7, 2017